Tam-a-lau Trail at The Cove Palisades (near Madras), 6-7 mi.
The Tam-a-lau Trail (see directions) is one of my favorite trails in Central Oregon, but it’s a trail you will want to under take only on cool, shady days. But, if you do go in the height of summer, be sure to don a hat and pack plenty of water for both yourself and your pooch. It can get sweltering hot at the top of this plateau which is, after all, out in the middle of the desert.
The name of this trail is derived from a Native American term meaning place of big rocks, which aptly describes how this trail starts out (see pamphlet w/map). If you park at the trail head in the parking lot (you’ll need to have the mandatory $3 handy to get your pass, but it’s worth it) you will walk through a stretch of big o’boulders that are simply amazing. There is another stretch of these same type of boulders on the lower plateau just before you make the big ascent up the rim rock – all very scenic and geologic.
The walk to the top of what they call The Peninsula will take your breath away – literally. It’s quite a hike, but there are several spots where you can pull over and enjoy the view if you’re so inclined. There is also one very narrow ledge you might want to be aware of; it’s not a place you will want to pass oncoming hikers – and it’s definitely a place to use caution, and where you want to keep your dog (and little kids) in check. The cliff is quite shear and the ledge is more than narrow.
After passing another plateau you will make a short ascent to the top where you can finally catch your breath and take in the expansive views. The Peninsula hike is a loop trail so if you keep to your left at the top where the trail divides you will be able to enjoy the views of the rivers below (Deschutes & later on in the hike the Crooked River) as well as views of the Cascade Mountain Range.
What you’ll see: A few hikers, some hiking dogs, some younger hikers and families particularly lower down on the trail, wildlife, lots of water, quite a few birds, including Bald Eagles and large vultures if you’re lucky. I think the vultures actually nest along the Crooked River rim somewhere because they are always there, and there’s always at least a couple. Depending on the time of year you may catch glimpses of a wide variety of high desert blooming plants, and you’ll certainly see lots of juniper, lizards and occasionally a snake or two.
Last summer we passed by an impressive beehive on the interior loop back which we were able to get close enough to to enjoy and far enough away from to out of the range of threat (I doubt this hive is still there, but I will update this post after my next hike to this location).
Above all else (pun intended) the view of the rivers is very impressive and on a nicely clouded day the reflections on the water can be spectacular and therefore enticing to photographers.